Appealing to Demons
Trump has taken what should be the honor of a lifetime — serving the country at the highest levels of the executive branch — and turned it into a reputational black hole.
… [T]he separation of crying migrant children from their parents as a deterrent, and the housing of children in prisonlike conditions, will be some of the most enduring political images of the Trump era. It says something about Nielsen that she took part in such practices. It says something about Trump that such actions were apparently too moderate and restrained for his taste.
I have no doubt that Trump is using the issue of immigration in a cynical way to solve political problems. But the implications are disturbing. The president clearly regards resentment against migrants as the common, binding purpose of the Republican Party. And, so far, he has not been wrong. The success of Trump’s cynical ploy depends on the existence of genuine enthusiasm for exclusion within his party. His play only works if the party’s nativism is broad and authentic.
… Trump’s appeal to inner demons above better angels proved easier than many of us hoped. And that makes the political and moral damage harder to repair.
It was never enough. Nielsen may have been willing to violate the dictates of morality, but she wasn’t willing to actually break the law. The New York Times reports that “the president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.”
… [T]he points earned for gassing women and children were insufficient to save Nielsen’s job. Trump demanded more and more. In California on Friday, CNN reported via Twitter, “Trump told border agents he wanted them to stop letting people cross the border, despite the fact that Central American asylum seekers according to U.S. law can do so.”
Someone had to be blamed for Trump’s failure to control the border, and Nielsen made a convenient scapegoat ….